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Margate Homeowners Seek Injunction in Absecon Island Dune Project

Posted on November 3, 2016

By Michelle Brunetti Post, Press of Atlantic City

The lawyer for five Margate homeowners suing to stop the Absecon Island beach replenishment project has asked a judge to prevent work from starting until the case can be heard.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday it had two bids on the project, which would create new dunes in Longport, Margate and southern Ventnor and replenish existing dunes in the rest of Ventnor and Atlantic City.

State and federal officials have said the project would start this fall and be finished sometime next summer.

The low bidders were Weeks Marine Inc., at $63.1 million for the base and $76.1 million for all of the options, including additional sand and work on outfall pipe extensions, and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. at $77.8 million for all options, Army Corps spokesman Stephen Rochette said.

The Army Corps estimated the cost at $50 million to $60 million as a base and $80 million with all options, Rochette said.

It is not clear if the bidding will have to be done again if the injunction is granted.

Jordan M. Rand, of Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia, who represents the Margate homeowners, said he filed a cause to show action requesting the injunction Friday and expects a decision soon.

The design calls for a dune elevation of 14.75 feet and a 200-foot berm in Atlantic City, and a dune elevation of 12.75 feet and a 100-foot berm for Ventnor, Margate and Longport, Rochette said.

The suit against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers alleges the project design will force water to pool at street ends and will create health hazards, odors and standing water at homeowners’ doorsteps.

The city of Margate had filed its own suit, but dropped it earlier this year rather than appeal a ruling that allowed the project to move forward.

The city had also been represented by Rand.

The city had argued the drainage problems were unacceptable and that its bulkhead system was all the city needed for storm protection.

The state DEP and Office of the Attorney General have declined comment on the litigation.

The homeowners are Steven Erlbaum, of South Barclay Avenue, Frank Binswanger Jr., of South Iroquois Avenue, John Turchi, of South Sumner Avenue, David Boath, of South Fredericksburg Avenue, and Ron Cohen, of South Argyle Avenue.

The case is being handled by Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez, who handled the city’s suit and is familiar with the case.

Margate Mayor Michael Becker has said the city’s street ends drain onto the beach, and the Public Works Department digs trenches to the ocean to allow the street water to drain after significant rains.

A dune system would prevent the city from trenching, and the water would pool at the street ends and between the dunes and bulkheads, he has said.

The city would like to see the Army Corps install pipes under the dunes from the street ends to the ocean, but the Army Corps was not receptive to that much more expensive approach, Becker has said.

The new dune construction is being paid for in full by the federal government, while the replenishment part of the project in Ventnor and Atlantic City will require the typical split of 65 percent from the federal government, about 26 percent from the state and about 9 percent from the local government, Rochette has said.

Source: Press of Atlantic City

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